BY EDGAR R. BATTE
We have been brought up to believe construction only happens in one way; cement, stone, sand and at times, heavy machinery. It is the known way, but expensive at the same time.
Yet, there other ways of construction that are not only sustainable but environmentally friendlier.
Some people have been deliberate in replacing brick with plastic waste bottles that they fill with polythene bags to serve the purpose of the later.
Sam Bukenya, director of Clear Walls of Dreams, an organisation in Kamwokya is one of such people. Through his organisation, he embarks on ridding the society of waste while recycling the plastic into building materials.
Artist Bruno Ruganzu in the same vein, has utilised plastic creatively. His house is made of waste plastic and glass bottles, a beautiful showcase of sustainable construction. He estimates that he has used 39, 000 plastic and glass bottles.
“In my understanding sustainable construction is using environmental conserving and resource efficient materials and processes during and for construction,” Sheila Nakitende, an artist, interior designer and advocate of environmental conservation emphatically defines the model.
Indeed, more advocates front environmentally friendly ways in building. Phillip Luwemba, an architectural designer observes that in Uganda, a lot of waste is created during ordinary construction. Yet examples worth emulating are available from other countries where waste is turned into construction material, thereby hitting two birds with one stone.
“A colleague of mine has had the chance and has specialised in the new steel construction which reduces construction of building slabs by 40 percent,” he attests.
In his article, Anastasios Koutsogiannis, a content marketing manager at Let’s Build, explains that sustainable construction comes with benefits, for example, cost reduction in the sense that a green building costs less than a normal building because fewer resources like water and energy are required for the completion of the project.
The use of sustainable materials can help with the purification of the air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), outdoor air is two to five times less polluted than indoor air. Building and furnishing materials, such as paints, cleaning products and carpets, can be dangerous for human health.
Koutsogiannis observes that in Europe, the construction industry is responsible for 34.7 percent of the continent’s total waste. He notes that green buildings minimise waste with their lower environmental impact and use of renewable sources and materials.’
He adds, “Products such as demolition debris, sand and burnt coal can be used with excellent environmental and aesthetic results. Sustainable buildings can be equipped with systems that recycle water, such as collecting rainwater for toilet cleaning. Sustainable buildings can collect and preserve natural energy, such as solar or wind energy, storing it and reusing it accordingly.
Philip Kiboneka, proprietor of Kasenyi Safari Camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park, was deliberate in using sustainable methods to draw energy, for example use of solar panels to provide power as well as ceilings and walls can ensure that no energy is going to waste.
With the sun shining almost every day, the panels are charged to also heat the water. Nakitende, director of Zaabu Interiors, argues that even our old school mud thatched houses were a very good method of sustainable construction.
She adds that if more time was invested in the technique; old construction techniques can be given a new lease of life. Practically, most lodges are redefining grass thatching with modern skillfulness that tells the African story of construction in a beautiful and alluring manner.
A source of livelihood
A few individuals are earning their livelihood from constructing these hut-like shelter.s Joseph Kenyi and Moses Wasswa Sekagya have roofed a number of hospitality facilities in Uganda’s national parks and key towns.
Kenyi and Wasswa get much of the grass for thatching from upcountry towns and negotiate for transportation to the respective places of construction.
The Lafarge Holcim Foundation promotes and illustrates the strength of diverse approaches to sustainable construction and notes that with sustainability as one of the most talked about but least understood term, it calls on the construction sector to consider the vast amount of material and energy resources required to produce and maintain the built environment.
It adds that taking into account the pace at which the planet is being further urbanised, it is imperative that whatever is built performs sustainably on all registers – environmentally, economically, and socially.
Nakitende observes that to achieving sustainable construction in Uganda is possible since it is affordable and has got minimal impact on the environment.